Columbus Day is celebrated on the second Monday in October every year in the United States since 1934. Over the years, however, things have been changing with respect to this debatable holiday.
Brown University, Rhode Island already renamed the holiday as Fall Weekend in 2009, owing to the controversy around the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus. However, on Tuesday, it renamed the holiday as Indigenous People’s Day.
Boston.com reported that the name stuck for a few years, but as part of the campus demonstrations that took place nationwide this past fall, the student group “Native Americans at Brown” demanded further action from the university and launched a petition in October. It was signed by over 1,100 students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
It said, “Although the current name of the holiday, ‘Fall Weekend,’ halts the active celebration of Columbus’ torture and genocide and the dawn of the transatlantic slave trade, this is the bare minimum that Brown University can do.”
“We are formally requesting that the university vote to make this change to promote the on-campus visibility of the resistance and resilience of Native peoples and Native Students on Brown’s campus against the continued attempts at disempowerment, disenfranchisement, erasure, and genocide that began with the arrival of Christopher Columbus.”
On October 27, 2015, members of the student organization Native Americans at Brown presented a resolution to the Brown University Community Council which was later passed. The motion presented to the faculty said that renaming the holiday “would recognize the contributions of Indigenous People/Native Americans to our community and our culture and foster a more inclusive community.”
The new change would express the need for opportunities to increase the visibility of Native Americans and recognition of Native Americans at Brown University, celebrate the contributions of indigenous communities and cultures, and acknowledge a legacy of displacement and oppression of Native American peoples.
Thomas Roberts, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, Roberts issued a statement.
“Over the course of the fall 2015 semester, faculty, staff, and students at Brown have engaged in a series of conversations around a proposal to change the name of our current Fall Weekend holiday to Indigenous People’s Day. Modifications of the academic calendar require a vote of the faculty. Today a majority of faculty present at the monthly faculty meeting voted to support this proposal by amending theFaculty Rules and Regulations, designating the second Monday of October as Indigenous People’s Day. In discussions prior to the vote, faculty expressed their support for the name change as an opportunity to show support for Native Americans on our campus and beyond, and to celebrate Native American culture and history.”
According to a report in the New York Times, several cities and states across the U.S. have already renamed the holiday, including Berkeley, California, which had its first Indigenous Peoples Day in 1992. A funny observation made by them was that although they seem to agree with one another on the sentiment, they don’t agree on the apostrophe. Brown said it would celebrate Indigenous People’s Day, Minneapolis celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day, and Seattle celebrates Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
In Hawaii, the holiday is known as Discoverers’ Day, and it’s Native Americans’ Day in South Dakota. Alaska renamed it Indigenous Peoples Day in 2015, and Washington state does not recognize Columbus Day as a legal holiday.
Efforts are underway across the country to drop the name Columbus Day, named in honor of explorer Christopher Columbus, because it represents the oppression of Native Americans.
[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]